A couple days ago Amazon announced plans to open up the Alexa search index and offer a web-based service to utilize the index. I think big changes could be afoot for the whole Search Engine Optimization business. Let me explain:
First – What is Alexa?- Alexa is a search company owned by Amazon (not sure if it’s connected with Amazon’s A9 search service). In addition to crawling the web and indexing its contents, the Alexa search toolbar is installed on millions of machines around the world. Alexa collects this toolbar information and uses it create Alexa Rankings. Many websites boast about their Alexa ranking when quoting ad rates. For now the important thing to understand is that Alexa has a fairly large index of the websites on the internet. Nobody really knows how it compares in size to Google or Yahoo because they keep their indexes guarded.
What are Amazon’ / Alexa’s plans? They are opening up their index to anyone to run their own programs against it. So now anyone can write their own search engine program with full access to the data in the Alexa search index. Amazon / Alexa will provide the server horsepower needed to do this as well as storage space. They will be a reasonable fee structure for using the service.
What’s different about the Alexa service and Google and Yahoo web API’s? This service gives you full acess to the Alexa index, to your heart’s content, as long as you pay. Google and Amazon provide API’s to their search services but you don’t have unfettered access to their index and the API’s restrict the amount of search queries you can peform per day. With Google and Yahoo you are extracting information from search queries made with their search engine –you can’t make your own like you now can with Alexa now.
So how might this affect the SEO business in the future? Now it is possible for people with relatively few resources (money, programmers, and hardware) to create their own search engines. They can tap into Amazon’s excess server power and it’s data index of the internet sites. So rather than SEO people trying to game one or two search engines, they may have to game lots of different search engines generated using Amazon / Alexa’s new service.
While Amazon / Alexa’s announcement may be a sure sign that commercial search power is destined to become a commodity, we aren’t there yet. Google does a great job at search. The information is usually relevant and the index is updated frequently. The index may also be much larger than Alexa’s. Can a vertically specific search engine based on Alexa’s index compete with Google’s? I don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Check out John Batelle’s search blog entry (and read the comments too).
Also, Tim Oren has a good post on this whole thing.